Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce raises a number of interesting issues, not least what this means for female participation in the sport of mixed martial arts.
At the present time Strikeforce is the biggest platform for woman to fight, establishing both 135lb and 145lb titles and giving a platform for stars like Gina Carano, Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos, Marloes Coenen, Miesha Tate and more to fight on the main card of major events.
Meanwhile Dana White has been adamant for some time that he has no plans to introduce a woman’s division into the UFC, and during his interview announcing news of the buyout to Ariel Helwani yesterday he still appeared reluctant to bring them on-board.
“My big problem with woman’s fighting is what it always was – it’s that there’s not enough real good girls out there to create a division. Can you do some cool fights here and there? Yeah, but, you know, not enough to create an entire division.”
So White’s skepticism at this stage doesn’t bode particularly well for the sport’s female fighters, and current Strikeforce 135lb No.1 contender Meisha Tate is just one of many who are wondering what the future holds.
“This could be a good or bad thing for the women, hope it doesn’t change for the worse,” Tate noted on Twitter yesterday after the story first broke.
In the short term it’s likely to be a good thing. With the might of Zuffa now behind them, the Strikeforce promotion in general should now benefit from increased promotion and awareness, and that could help fighters like Tate tap into a much broader fan-base than they have been able to thus far.
That can be seen already by the fact that yesterday after the announcement both the UFC’s Twitter and Facebook accounts began to promote Strikeforce’s next big event, ‘Diaz Vs Daley.’ Combined those two UFC social networking sites reach over 5,000,000 fans, compared to Strikeforce’s combined total of around 250,000.
What happens in the longer term is still somewhat of a mystery.
To be fair, White is correct to say that there isn’t a great deal of talent in female MMA. That’s clearly illustrated by the fact that Strikeforce have struggled to find suitable opponents for current 145lb champ ‘Cyborg’ Santos, and so she’s been sitting on the sidelines since last June.
Woman’s MMA is still in it’s formative stages though, and is only going to improve as time goes on, just as has happened with the male side of the equation. White himself has admitted that the UFC needs more fights in order to be able to cope with their ambitious global expansion plans, and so surely there’s a place for female MMA, even if it’s only in the prelims at first.
If all goes according to plan Strikeforce will at least still be in existence until it’s current deal with Showtime expires in approximately two years, so there’s still time for Dana White’s opinion to be swayed.
In general White is influenced by what the fans want, and what sells. Therefore, if over the course of the next two years the likes of Santos, Coenen and Tate can put on entertaining fights and use the increased exposure they’ll receive from the UFC – Strikeforce deal to strengthen their fan-bases, then they could yet put forward a convincing argument to be given the green-light to fight in the Octagon.